- Courtesy Of Zack Einhorn
- ACORN's Eat Local VT app
During the pandemic, Vermonters have been seeking out local food more than ever. To make it easier to find, the Addison County Relocalization Network (ACORN), an organization devoted to revitalizing local land and food systems, has launched Eat Local VT, a map-based app that connects users to 230 farmers and food producers from Shelburne to Pawlet.
Now available in app stores, the app is essentially a dynamic version of ACORN's annual Champlain Valley Guide to Local Food and Farms. Users can scroll through the list of producers, browse on a map, or filter by categories such as products, purchase methods or services, such as pick-your-own and farm stays.
Lindsey Berk, who took over as ACORN's executive director in January 2021, has been envisioning an online version of the guide since she joined the organization in 2015. "It made sense with the proliferation of smartphones to have an app that could access the data in the printed guide, but we never had the money or the time to figure it out," she said.
In 2020, though, the pandemic made a printed guide less practical. Instead of producing one, Berk developed the app with a team of student volunteers from Middlebury College who had expertise in computer science, geographic information systems and food studies.
"They wanted real-world experience and something fun to do while they were stuck at home," Berk said. "I feel like I won a million dollars getting these students to help out."
Financial support came from Co-operative Insurance Companies.
Berk hopes to expand the app statewide by partnering with local food and agriculture organizations outside the Champlain Valley.
"Farmers sell across county lines, and people go across county lines to buy food," she said. "We've seen how important our local food system is, and we're hoping this helps keep up that community demand."